My friend asks me, why I quote my granny: “Don´t trust the Russians!” Well, it´s complicated. Trust grows. So does mistrust. The easy reasons are bad experiences with Russians as neighbors and rulers – during wars and after. You know, after the war is before the war… Putin is worse than any fox (or snake!). He´s out to grow Russia even if others have to bleed. He bullies sovereign nations. Poisons his enemies not in the streets of London, but in Salisbury and in broad daylight Berlin. He locks them away in today´s Gulags with all legalities covered or at least bent to do so and moves against Ukraine whilst all watch wide eyed. Publicly declared Kiev and all of Ukraine to be his subjects, although they´ve been around longer than Moscow and historic Russia. It´s his powerplay, creating facts by force disregarding any semblance of finesse. War as final means of politics (Carl von Clausewitz). There´s nobody to stop him. He´s “walking over corpses” whilst our reporters are dumbfounded as they continue to seek some rationality in this brutal display of military force. It´s like a child complaining about the school bully, but nobody cares.
For Christmas I got this book: “Humankind. A hopeful history” by Rutger Bregman. It builds much on the same foundations as psychological courses for self-help and stress management: “You´re ok. I´m ok” (Thomas A. Harris). It strongly rejects the old narrative of “Lord of the Flies” (William Golding) and “radical evil” (Immanuel Kant). Rather, it advocates a positive outlook much along the lines of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Opposed to Kant, Golding and a long string of others, these starry-eyed proponents underestimate original sin and highly exaggerate our good inclinations. Mostly they are just self-seeking cover-ups. Ask Jacob, Moses, David and all the others… They had their dark sides. No question. And “Original Sin” remains the second article in the Augsburg Confession. The Formula of Concord confirms that.
The Russians understand about humans. Sinful humans. Erring, tarnished, envious and even hateful. Probably more than the Chinese do as there was a Conversion of the Russ – but the Chinese have no good God, only some sorry party idols and short lived communist effigies. Their own cultural revolution made sure of getting rid of all else. It was more effective than most exorcisms. At least, the Russians have Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Pasternak, Solschenizyn and so on. It´s their sensitive, good and suffering side. They know a lot about human hardship, punishment, innocent suffering too. Financial hardship doesn´t weigh too much in that context. Financial boycotts could work for materialistic capitalists, but I think, they´re feeble means against hardened Russians. They know poverty. Just read their stories of hungry, ill, imprisoned and downtrodden. They know what it means to be dirt poor. Nothing. Silch. Just plenty snow, dirt and wide open spaces. So, our talk of economic sanctions doesn´t frighten them so much as us but hardens their tough resolve. Perhaps they even hope for redemption through suffering. I don´t know, if they really know about justice, truth and reconciliation as possible outcomes of secular processes and democratic power sharing. Forgiveness in the political realm? Mitigating circumstances? Perhaps, but I´m not so sure. There´s just so much wildness, tyranny, brutal force, and harsh exploitation and that´s not only natural forces, evolution through many ages and eventual survival of the fittest, but rather in their best circles and prestigious families. Just think of “War and Peace” (Tolstoy). Napoleon couldn´t break their spirit by razing Moscow, nor could general Paulus by burning down Stalingrad. They left defeated. Russians lived to tell the story. It´s their very own never-ending story. It´s their long history. Remember Moscow founding Czar Ivan the Terrible, killing his only son in a rage. I mean, they know about playing God in a very serious fashion.
They know a whole lot about dialectics. Materialism too. They say this and do the other – just like that son, who tells his father, he´ll go work in the vineyard, but then doesn´t. They don´t just know a lot about the “Dialectics of Enlightenment” (Horkheimer/Adorno) and how something, that was meant to be so good, turns out to be so bad – it is the revolt of nature. They perfected the script. That´s not just with Joseph Stalin and his killing fields in the Ukraine, but even those organized mock trials, the Gulag system and ongoing tyranny proving over decades how the revolution eats its very own children. The good become the bad. Millions died for it. Yes, “Dichter & Denker” build Auschwitz, hold themselves as “master race”, whilst degrading others as “unworthy to live” – left to kill. Afrikaaners perfect apartheid – not many years after the Boer War. The Jews do it with their Palestinian compatriots – not long after the Holocaust. But in real existing socialism such political atrocities were perfected.
All good reasons for checks and balances, sharing and even division of power. Not losing sight of the distinct possibility that things go wrong in governments. Things get out of hand as power corrupts and absolute power goes all the way. There´s just so much going seriously wrong. Too much reason for revenge, bad blood, getting one´s own back. Nobody wins the blame game. There´s always reason for revenge and to hit back. You just need a memory for these things or some imagination. It´s always a good time for containment of brutal force, resistance against evil, some natural law justice – and to prevent the winner to take it all. We Lutherans believe in the Law holding true and setting boundaries not just for the criminals, but for the justified and righteous too as even they are prone to fall short of expectations and commit terrible sin. King David, but also St. Peter are long-standing examples. The Greek tragedies confirm these stories – and Shakespeare sings the same tune.
After the walls finally came down in the last century, many of us fell for the “End of history and the last man” (Francis Fukuyama). We were just so eager to believe in such a happy ending. Leaving politics for children (“Fridays for future”). Making room for previously discriminated genders – all seventy of them and counting! We have presidential actors like Zelensky. Utterly out of their depth confronted with serious military opposition. Parliament turns into a circus with clowns like Boris taking over and playing the fool with everyone. Democratic guardians fall asleep on the job and not just sleepy Joe. Serious professionals are scarce. In Germany far too many good people have been kicked into oblivion.
So now, whilst children block highways, harbors and key points, Putin´s generals roll into the Ukraine with thousands of tanks. Whilst local activist play hide-and-seek in lofty treetops, breaking up railways and painting horrid graffiti, Russians fire rockets into all directions, challenge Beijing´s closing function for most effective distraction from ongoing atrocities. Whilst European politicians fantasize of flowering landscapes under wind turbines, Russians are pressing down on our gas taps and spend as much dirty energy as they can to expand their bulging borders for just more dreary “Lebensraum”: “Just because they can!” Whilst we consider one nutty diet after the other, Russians are nursing a megalomanic appetite by swallowing up neighbors: Who is going to stop me now? (Queen) Somebody should tell them, that this kind of thirst for more is not stilled by giving in to it. Rather it needs tough love: “Stop it!” Just ask the AA about that. Their twelve steps would probably be way beyond modern diplomats, but they could get some serious hardliners on the job. This is a tough job after alle. Presently we have a pretty cool minister of foreign affairs. She´s a pretty little girl really. However, the old men in Putin´s war office don´t look as if they could take her seriously. They´ve got real business to attend to. They are at war – not having fun and playing games for bored voters. Their call is beyond child stuff. They´ve come up through the ranks and fill that post – by being ugly, dirty fighters. It´s been that way for decades. Just ask their opponents. At least those, who are still around. I fear most of them are dead and not due to natural causes. If they do that to their own people, what do You imagine will they do with foreign enemies and aliens?
So, where have all the men gone? We need men to fight the Taliban, the Iranian mullahs firing up their nuclear reactors, Islamic state terrorists. Obviously computer nerds can go a long way at disrupting the networks, but for some ops, you need fighters even behind enemy lines – marines or SAS if you can´t find a recce. I doubt if the GSG9 is up to it after the latest purges. Chinese communists pressing for national glory beyond their narrow confines. Cowing Hong Kong, hurting Taiwan and destabilizing the region – infecting the world with their mutations. Russians, who seek vindication for far too much hurt pride and deflated egos – dating back decades, even centuries. It´s one big asylum – never mind lost case. And now, they´re on the loose. Putin let his dogs out! And we? We have ended compulsory military service. Our guns don´t fire. Our tanks don´t drive. Helicopters, jets, and drones don´t fly. Ships and submarines aren´t seaworthy. Hallelujah – we have helmets and masks and lots of cake to give away. So, let them eat cake! We have bureaucrats in every office and plenty forms to prove it – instead of professional soldiers – probably fluent at singing Kumbaya and baking vegan Pizza, but who the heck is guarding the gates?
It´s no longer “waiting for the barbarians” (J.M. Coetzee). We´re past that stage. They are here. Knocking at the door. Forcing entry. Our best men are in hiding. Ostracized. Castrated. No balls left. So, let’s see, what the Russians are up. Anybody for some tea? They prefer Vodka straight. You want to sit down and talk? They´d rather shoot – straight too. They´ve come to clean shop. Clean all their way. Do the lists. One dead, one tick. Death row. It´s dirty, but they´re used to it. It´s for a good purpose. Creating space for their people. Room for egos to flourish. Who is going to stop them? It´s tickets for now.
The strong man in China might stand up to Russia someday yet. For now, they are sharing jokes on us. It´s just a poor joke. Ukrainians caught up in the middle. Again. Trampling fields. They had hoped for a turn for the better. No longer crazy bears foraging in their front yard. Seems as if that was wishful thinking. Isn´t there always? As long as we´re still breathing there´s hope. Hope – maybe, but not in logic, military reason or in some political party or princes. There is one, who holds all the world in His hands – even the high and mighty like Putin & Co plus the one from Beijing. The prophet Amos proclaims: “Is there one evil in the city, that the Lord doesn´t do?” To Him we continue to cry: Lord have mercy! Christ have mery! Lord have mercy!